May 092016
 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The OLYMPUS PEN F Experience

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By Thomas Ludwig of COSYSPEED

Thanks Steve for the opportunity to share my thoughts about the PEN F on your amazing blog. You are doing super great work and I feel inspired everyday!

It’s a sexy little camera, the PEN F. Many would use it as a street photography camera and that’s the way I wanted to review it. My focus was also on the way it fits into a CAMSLINGER bag and how this combo works on the streets.

JPGs out of cam are extremely good, so I didn’t touch the RAWs at all. All images in this review, except product images, are straight out of cam, shot in Monochrome Mode II with added grain and vignette. That’s the way I would have processed them in Lightroom.

FACES – The OLYMPUS PEN F in Lübeck/Germany

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The PEN F in the Streets

Some days ago I got the chance to test the new Olympus PEN F together with some Olympus prime lenses and I was curious to see how it performs. As many others like Steve have already mentioned all features of the PEN F in their reviews, I will only focus on street photography with the retro stylish micro 43 camera – of course to my personal needs and habits.

When shooting on the streets most important to me is image quality and focusing abilities. And so this review is mainly focused on these points. In fact it ended up being a PEN F / Monochrome Mode review, as I liked the JPGs right out of the cam.

For those of you who don’t like to read long texts: The PEN F is a timeless designed camera, that you will enjoy for many years. In my eyes it is already iconic, just like it’s forefather PEN F from the 70’s. I enjoyed using it every minute especially because of the JPGs that I could use without editing – this gave back HUGE fun to my style of street photography.

 OBSERVED

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The setup

Olympus PEN F | Olympus 12mm/F2 | Olympus 17mm/F1.8 | Olympus 45mm/F1.8 | Spare Battery | Olympus Macro Converter

All packed in a CAMSLINGER 160 with STUFFBAG 30

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BEAUTIFUL GRAIN and NICE LOOK – All images in this review are shot in Monochrome Mode II with Grain and Vigenette added. This was made all in cam.

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TIRE and WOOD
NICE DETAILS and RICH TONALITY – The new sensor in the PEN F delivers plenty of detail. Tonality of the Out Of Cam JPGs is simply great!

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Image Quality

Actually I had only two full days of street shooting with the little Oly. So I went to Lübeck in my neighborhood, a city next to Hamburg/Germany. I shot in RAW and JPG, while for JPG I used the Monochrome II filter, added some vignette and grain – all IN cam which is absolutely great. I would have converted the RAWs this way in Lightroom and so I was keen to see how the JPGs would look like on the screen of my PC. And they looked great! That great, that I even didn’t touch the RAWs. So all the images in this review are out of cam without ANY editing. To me this worked 100% to my taste. High ISO? This is an overrated point IMHO, nevertheless the PEN F delivers very well images up to ISO 3200 and if used in Monochrome Mode with Grain, you can go higher without any problems.

Besides the cool design of the cam this is maybe the strongest point of the PEN F in my opinion – beeing free of editing and post processing and getting what I want right out of the cam.

SOMEDAY

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CHURCH

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OUT OF THE LIGHT

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SPRING

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TUNNEL

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Handling

The PEN F handles very nicely. Due to a missing grip, it is maybe not as comfortable to hold as a SONY a6000 or LUMIX GX8, but there’s an optional grip available if you need it. To me it was absolutely fine. Especially because the PEN F feels very premium and it’s a pleasure just to hold it in your hand. All the dials feel durable and solidly made. The UI with so many physical controls needs some time to get used to, but as soon as you know where all functions are, it makes photographing much easier.

The design reminescense to the original PEN F from the 70ies is especially visible with the silver PEN F model. Look at these lovely curves and lines!

PEN F

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Focusing in the streets

I’m using mostly three focus methods when in the streets:

#1 – Single point auto focus
#2 – Continuous auto focus with subject tracking
#3 – Hyperfocal focusing

#1 – Single point auto focus

The auto focus of modern micro 43 cameras is so quick, that to focus and to trigger is almost one process. And so I was using single point auto focus most of the time and with moving subjects I had about 95% in focus, even when using the little 17mm/F1.8 wide open. The focus of the PEN F is insanely quick and accurate in single point mode. To me there was nothing left to desire.

WHAT DO YOU THINK – Single Point Auto Focus works amazingly quick and accurate

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#2 – Continuous auto focus with subject tracking

Actually this method seems to be the most charming. Set your focus point and the cam will track it until you press the shutter. However continuous auto focus with subject tracking turned out to be not very effective on the PEN F. I’d say that 50% of my shots were out of focus. I guess this is a firmware problem and can hopefully be fixed in the future. However focus is not all!

WELCOME TO THE GYM – Not in focus but I like it anyway

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#3 – Hyperfocal focusing

Set a distance in manual focus mode and just trigger, when you think your subject is in the frame as you like it. Sounds easy but in fact hyperfocal focusing is tricky if you like to get some DOF. The more you open the aperture, the thinner is the in focus area. The day in Lübeck all images where more or less out of focus, when using this method because I was shooting wide open all the time. If set to F10 I’d say 99% would have been in focus. I know now, that I have to improve my skills :-)

The OLYMPUS 17/1.8 and 12/2.0 are very well suited to this focusing method, as they have a manual mode with distance scale!

ROSARY, MISHABA or MALA – Hyperfocal focusing wide open is difficult

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The PEN F in a CAMSLINGER

A CAMSLINGER bag is all about quick, single-handed operation and designed to wear at the hip. I fixed the included FINGERCAMSTRAP to the cam and was able to grab the PEN F within a second out of my little bag. But the On/Off switch is on the left side of the PEN F and so one needs always a second-hand to turn it on. As soon as you have a coffee in your left hand or fix yourself while standing in a shaking subway with one hand, then you could of course access and draw the PEN F quickly out of the CAMSLINGER, but not take a photo. So I never switched the cam off and had it always in stand-by in my CAMSLINGER. This may cost a bit of battery power, but fixed my little problem easily.

CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F 015 CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F (1)

015 CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F (2)

015 CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F (4)

015 CAMSLINGER 160 and PEN F (5)

Carrying the PEN F and gear in a CAMSLINGER at the hip, is extremely comfortable. As your upper body is free of belts and straps, your neck will never hurt. In fact it is almost as quick to grab your cam, as it would be with a sling strap – but the PEN F was always protected, when not in use. I prefered to use the slimmer CAMSLINGER 160 then the more space offering CAMSLINGER Streetomatic. The 160 is just perfect for rangefinder styled cameras like the PEN F.

THOMAS IN LÜBECK WITH CAMSLINGER AND PEN F

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Conclusion

The PEN F is a marvelous piece of camera design and delivers stunning images. It’s technology is up-to-date and will be for many years. I’m hoping a firmware update will lift the tracking abilities on the professional level of the OLYMPUS EM-1, because this is a feature that makes street photography much easier.

The possibility to get final results right out of the cam is pretty cool and gives a further kick to the fun I had with the PEN F. So just go out, shoot and come back with images that are simply ready – to some this is might be a game changing benefit!

The PEN F is one of these rare cameras that one will use for many years and so a good medicine against G.A.S. :-). The timeless design and great build qualty makes a camera that is simply gorgeous! If you are looking for a street photography camera – go for the PEN F!

 

Reference: COSYSPEED

B&H PHOTO: COSYSPEED BAGS

FROM STEVE: Thanks Thomas! Many of you may not realize I met Thomas in Las Vegas a couple of years back where we shot a Street Shooting video. Thomas is an amazing man and he has a great passion for photography, that was very clear when we met. Below is the video we shot while there, was a great memory I will never forget.

 

May 042016
 

SHOOTBAG

The Cub & Company Shooter’s Camera Bag. Hand made in the U.S.A. (Video)

I have been reviewing loads of bags lately, or so it seems. Bags are cool, and are VERY MUCH a personal choice. OF ALL the bags I have reviewed, owned or used, the Wotancraft Ryker has always been my goto #1 bag. It’s beauty, its style, its build and feel are all at a 10 out of 10. While I love other bags, the one I use most is that Ryker…

But now along comes a bag so unique and cool, it may be getting more carry time than my Wotancraft! This bag, from CUB AND COMPANY is so lightweight, so small but so large inside it is almost like an illusion. I expected it to be so tin on the inside, as most small bags are. But this one…plop open the leather top and you are greeted to a plush interior that can hold a huge DSLR and a few lenses or two mirrorless bodies and some lenses or even three Leicas and some lenses.

See the video review below!

It’s wide, short and squat and I have been waiting for something like this. My main complaint with most bags is they try to be tall and skinny. When this happens, the gear is hard to get in and out, and sometimes you need to force it in, and even then, it is a tight pack job. With the Cub & Company Shooter’s Bag, even putting a Leica SL inside fits nice and comfy as you can see in the video above!

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Also very cool to have a tripod storage solution underneath…

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Be sure to watch the video above as that is the actual review of the bag.

You can read more or order at CUBANDCOMPANY.COM

May 032016
 

My opinion of the Wotancraft Ryker, Scout and the new Leica 28 Cron

by Dan Bar

Hello Steve and Brandon!

About a week ago I received my new 28 cron. It is the first time I use a 28 as I am a 35\50 guy. I was really curious to see how I felt about it. I also read Steve’s articles about the Wotancraft 2 bags + read all articles related, so I bought a new Scout a few months ago, and when I heard a friend of mine ( Tomer Vaknin) wanted to change his Ryker ( his was brown and he bought a new Ona Berlin Black) I immediately gave him one of my BLACK bags and took his BROWN Ryker.

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There are a lot of article\reviews about those bags and i am no expert, so I will just emphasize my opinion and thoughts. Both bags are beautiful , the Ryker is is made of the finest smooth leather and looks beautiful, as a matter of fact to my eyes it is the most beautiful bag on the market. It is not big and it can hold two Leica M cameras with lenses and no more ( in the main department of course). The front department has no zipper which is not safe, so I will never keep batteries of memory cards there. Next is a zipped pocket which can hold the cards + batteries but it is not separated into 2 pockets and that makes it uncomfortable to carry a few things together.

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Nobody mentions it is a heavy bag. You could go to the articles and see it is 1.675 grams but I don’t intend to write a review. I simply mention my feelings. It is a heavy bag, even with one camera ( no BATTERY and charger). It is heavier than the scout wich is bigger. That of course is a leather side effect.

So I will use this bag for only one camera + charger, some batteries , memory cards etc. All being said i love the look of this bag, the leather quality. Everything here shouts top-notch. Oh, unlike my friend Tomer I love the brown color which will age nicer than the black version ( in my opinion). You can see more at WOTANCRAFT.com

THE LEICA 28 CRON

As said I received my 28 Cron a week ago, so I did not have much time with it, As with the bags I shall only write about my feelings. The lens is a beauty. It is small beautifully built like all Leica lenses , very comfortable to use, it is not a heavy and the best thing is the metal hood which is compact and this time screwed to the body so no more accidents with it. I think it is a very sharp lens with a nice bokeh. It is very light and I know LEICA people love the Cron version.

Here are some of the photos of the 28 shot with the Leica 246 of my family..

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Thank you and take care!

Danny

Apr 182016
 

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PIMP YOUR SONY RX1 MKII with these awesome accessories!

I have to say, I love my Sony RX1R MKII. I loved the original, then the R and now the MKII is what I feel is the smallest body on the market with the most serious IQ and capabilities, IF 35mm is your thing. In other words, there is no camera that is this size or smaller that packs this kind of IQ, low light and full on potential. The Sony RX1 series has sort of a cult following as the ones who own it and use it seem  to truly adore it, and those who never did bond with it just sold them. But no matter how you look at it, the RX1R MKII, or any of the RX1 series of cameras can produce stunning results in the right hands.

I often get asked “what strap do you use” or “what bag was that in your last video” or “hey, what shutter release is that” or even “what grip are you using”. I get these questions very often, and this post is going to tell all of you exactly what I did to my Sony RX1R II to make it my own, and make it much more comfy to use.

I will show you two grips I love and recommend, the best soft release I have found to date (for ANY camera), the sun shade I chose for my RX1RII that is much more affordable than the Sony version as well as what strap I use when I use one on this camera. Usually though, I have it in a small bag and without a strap.

First, check out the video to see it all

Then, below, , check out these two grips for the RX1R Mark II (NOTE: These will NOT fit the old Mark I versions as the MKII body has changed ever so slightly)

FROM METRO-CASE.COM 

This for fitting sleek and functional grip is quite nice. When I attached it to my RX1RII I was pleased with the design, looks, the way it keeps me from pressing the video/movie button and the fact that it is compatible with ARCA SWISS style plates. It also adds a nice grip to the camera while looking like it fits in with the design of the Sony itself. It has a solid feel and construction and for most, this would be the perfect grip. Click the stats below to see more or order. Price is $89 direct at METRO-CASE.COM

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FROM J.B. DESIGNS

I LOVE LOVE LOVE JB Grips! The wooden materials and nice design mean my cameras always look unique and cool when a JB Grip is rocking it. While this look is not for everyone (some will prefer the sleek design above from METRO-CASE, but some will also prefer this all natural wood look as it really gives off a nice vibe and makes the camera look a bit old school, a bit different and it feels great in the hand. I love this grip because of the look, design and the way it feels on the hand. It is easy to remove, lets me have full access to memory and battery and can mount on a tripod. This JB Grip is $85 and available at AMAZON HERE!

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LENS HOOD

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I looked for a nice lens hood for my RX1RII and ended up buying THIS ONE from Fotodiox on Amazon. It is all metal, is squared off and looks perfect on the camera. Not much else to say about this as its a lens hood but it does the job, looks great, is all metal and while not dirt cheap, it is well worth the cost. You can see it at Amazon HERE.

SHUTTER RELEASE – Best release I have ever found!

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WOW! I stopped buying shutter soft releases quite a while ago. WHY? They always fell off. The screw in models fell off almost daily, and they would be lost forever. Then there were even some stick ons that would always fall off as well. I gave up. UNTIL NOW. Check these out guys and see me attach one to my Sony A7RII in the video above. These come in all sizes and all shapes and are attractive with a clean design. You can go with concave or convex and 10mm or 13mm. All kinds of colors to choose from and they are not expensive coming in at $9-$15

Check them out HERE.

STRAPS?

I have to say, I do not use a NECK strap with my RX1RII often, but when I do it is this one. I always love smaller leather straps, and this one is affordable and nice ;)

 but I do use this WRIST strap from LV Designs more often.

BATTERIES – SPARES and EXTRAS

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I must have 12 batteries for the RX1/RX100’s around here but most of them are cheap spares I bought from Amazon, along with a cheap dual charger that works amazingly well. The batteries can be found cheap HERE (Two for $12) and the charger I use is HERE Highly recommended! 

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Apr 042016
 

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The new Oberwerth MUNCHEN Camera Bag. Made in Germany.

(From Steve: I posted this earlier but had the wrong NAME for the bag, well, wrong model. Silly me. I thought I was sent the Freiburg but was sent the MUNCHEN, so this is a repost with some corrections!)

I have had the pleasure of using the new Oberwerth Munchen camera bag for the last 7-10 days, even traveling with it twice last week and now that I am home bound all this week due to something out of my control I have decided to sit down and write some brief thoughts on this new camera bag that has been my companion over thousands of miles of traveling already. For those who just like plain black bags, this one may not be for you but for the photographers out there who like style and function (and there are thousands), keep reading.

If you have read the pages here on my website/blog over the years you will have seen countless camera bag reviews. From Think Tank, Billingham, Crumpler, Wotancraft, HoldFastGear, Tenba and more. These are the names that stick out in my head for quality bags that can last one a lifetime of shooting. Some are prettier than others, some are more functional than others. The main bags I have stuck with for my personal use, up to now, have been WOTANCRAFT for my day to day shooting and HOLDFAST for my travel bag needs (they are larger). But I love all bags and two weeks ago I was stuck on my Tenba Cooper bag, which is also a fantastic functional and good looking bag.

With all of that out of the way, I am here now to speak about a new bag that has the looks, the build quality and the feel of a premium high end camera bag. That is this new Oberwerth Munchen.

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The “München“ is the larger photo bag of the Oberwerth product range. Very spacious and with a timeless appearance, equipped with numerous additional storage compartments for photo equipment, laptop, tablet or PDA. Both front pockets provide enough space to stow personal items, independent of the camera. The well thought-out, removable insert with a closable top allows the storage of the gear also outside of the bag. Placed in the shoulder strap, an invisible cut resistant device ensures you and your photo bag are inseparable. The “München” adapts to your own style and is a perfect companion not only for the serious photographer but also for the office or a business trip.

Photo bag München: “The larger one”

A spacious partner for the engaged photographer with a practical, removable insert
Durable CORDURA® and high-quality leather protects the equipment against shocks, moisture or other external influences
Air-cushioned insert for camera and accessories included
Additional compartments for smart cards
Spacious front pockets provide additional space for personal items or further gear
Practical additional compartments for laptop, tablet, PDA and documents
Attuned to the Oberwerth product range available in CORDURA® and leather combinations
Like all Oberwerth bags: 100% handmade in Germany!

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While I prefer the black/brown color they offer over this beige/cowhide version even this one is super nice and attractive. The inside is spacious enough for even a DSLR and a couple of lenses yet the bag is still on the small to medium side. The huge leather flap on the top is nice and thick and feels solid like it will really protect the gear under its umbrella. Open that up using the nice connectors and you will see a protective flap inside that will give an added layer of gear protection. You have leather rain flaps on the inner sides as well. This will ensure that even if you are out in the rain, water should not get inside. I have not had the luck to be out in rain recently so I have not tested this aspect of it but maybe I will head out back with the hose and give it a wash down, with gear inside ;)

For me, the black version may be the sweetest looking camera bag ever, in the same vein as Billingham and Wotancraft. In fact, the Munchen is almost perfect for me, ALMOST. 

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With so many bags I have here on hand, I pick my daily bag  these days depending on mood, what I am needing to carry and how large I want or need to go. If traveling, does it have a place for my 13″ macbook? The MUNCHEN does, and it worked very well for my last travels as it keeps it shape and is easy to store under an airline seat in front of you. It slides under perfectly and gives you very open and clear access to all compartments and it does indeed hold my 13″ laptop quite well, perfectly. It will not hold a 15″ btw.

The Oberwerth bag is quite nice when I study the details. Quality is here all the way around, and I feel it is a bag that will outlast the rest of my shooting days easily.

The one weakness I found for my use…

As I used the bag, walking through dirt, sand and heat..even setting it down where a stream of water soaked the bottom, it held up perfectly and when dusted off and cleaned looks as new besides the unique scuffs I put into the leather from actual use of the bag. It is a sturdy bag but I missed having pockets on the ends/side of the bag. I am used to storing cables or my phone or whatever into an outer side pocket and the MUNCHEN does not have any. What it does have is pockets and compartments inside, which makes up for it somewhat but there is no quick access to them as there would be on the side. I understand the reason for leaving them out, as it seems this bag balances a fine line between STYLE and FUNCTION. The easiest way for me to describe my thoughts here is to say that it is stylish as all get out but has 95% function instead of 100%. 95% only because there are no side pockets. With that, there is plenty of room inside after you raise the flap.

One of the unique things I love about this bag though it is the strap on the back for sliding onto your luggage handle when traveling. It is attached via velcro normally, so it stays out of the way when not using it. In fact, I did not even know it was there until I traveled and really looked for this. This is a must on travel bags for me, and this one implements it better than I have seen elsewhere. It stays on my luggage nice and firmly making it easier as I travel through large airports.

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I was using this bag for a Sony A7RII and three lenses along with my 13″ Macbook Pro and some cables, accessories and chargers. I also used it for an Olympus E-M5 II system with 4 lenses. It can even hold a Leica SL with a few M lenses. I can see it also being used with a smaller DSLR system but not a huge large FF system with zooms.

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The Oberwerth MUNCHEN is a stunning high end bag that looks nice, is built to the highest standard, will protect your gear from the elements and will wear in with a nice gorgeous patina over the years. If you want a bag to last you for many many years and like the looks of this offering, take a look at them closer at Oberwerth’s website. 

The MUNCHEN is NOT cheap my friends. Think FOGG BAGG prices. This is what quality costs these days in exotic “made in Germany” bags. This bag comes in at $635  Would I spend $635 to buy this? Well, that would be a tough sell for me, but I am not rich and I already own around 13 bags :0

But for the ones who have been looking for that perfect, nice, higher end bag to last them the rest of their lifetime, this may be the one you have been waiting for. Think Fogg quality here my friends, up at the top of the quality heap.

Drew & Barry also are the Asian distributors for Oberwerth, so check their site out here and give them a facebook like HERE. They were nice enough to send me this bag out for review, and I am glad they did as it introduced me to yet another wonderful line of camera bags. 

Mar 212016
 

REVIEWS ON THE WAY: Sony A6300, 24-70 and 85 1.4 & Oberwerth Camera Bag

Sony Sony Sony! They are still on top of their game!

Just a note to let everyone know that I am receiving a load of goodies today via Fed Ex! The new Sony A6300, which I had a preview of two weeks ago. It is the successor to the hottest selling mirrorless camera over $600, the original A6000 (which I still own). The A6000 has been WILDLY popular and partly responsible for Sony’s huge growth over the past few years and can now be had for $498! The 6000 along with the hot A7 series has propelled Sony to the top of the Mirrorless heap for sales. Now with the new A6300, they expect to keep on track.

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The A6300 is fast, VERY fast. When I shot it in Miami a couple of weeks back it had some impressive AF tracking going on, but I knew I needed it at home for a while to really give it a fair review. I will be comparing it to the A6000, and testing some cool lenses on it as well. The inexpensive 28 f/2 from Sony which is an amazing lens, should be perfect on the A6000 giving a sort of 35mm equivalent. This would put a world class APS-C camera and fast 28mm f.2 lens in your hands for under $1500. Still a hunk of cash but I feel this combo would be blazing fast, accurate, and great in low light. Also, smaller and much less $$$ than a full bore A7RII setup.

I will also test the new 24-70 f/2.8 and 85 1.4 on the 6300 as well as the A7RII. See my earlier tests HERE and HERE

Loads of goodies to test and review makes me a happy man ;) So look for the Sony reviews SOON.

New Camera Bag. The Oberwerth Freiburg Bag. 

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I also just received this new lovely bag from Oberwerth. It is the Freiburg model and is gorgeous. Hand made in Germany, and expensive, but one of those with true quality. I love my Wotancraft bags and my Hold Fast Gear bags and my Tenba bag, but this one is a step up in “class” and in appearance, for those with not only discriminating taste but those who enjoy a spacious bag to hold their gear and goods. I will have a video up this week for the Freiburg bag, look for it by Thursday!

You can see more about Oberworth bags HERE. 

Mar 182016
 

The handcrafted JB Camera Designs Grip for Fuji X Pro 2

by Jason Boucher – His website is HERE

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Last week I was in Stillwater, Oklahoma to ride the Landrun 100 gravel road race & ride, pics can be found here. While there I got to see one of my closest friends’ businesses, JB Camera Designs. JB Camera Designs makes hand crafted wood camera grips and accessories that are aimed to improve ergonomics and add protection to cameras.

They are hand crafted right here in the good ol’ USA out of beautiful hard wood, bambo, plastic and/or machined alloy. On top of that, all three employees are photographers and the two primary craftsmen are also engineering students. What a cool college job.

While I was there, JB and crew (Ean and Eli) were putting the finishing touches on their new grip for the Fuji X Pro 2. In fact, the grip being produced in the photographs below is now mounted to my very own Fuji X Pro 2. I shot all these images with the X Pro 2 with either the 16mm f1.4 or 35mm f2 in RAW + JPEG with the JPEG setting to Acros with medium grain. I thought it fit the handcrafted nature of the grips. All these images shared are from JPEG as I have not processed any RAW files yet from the X Pro 2 but I find the JPEGS more than pleasing so it hasn’t been a big deal for me.

Below are some shots from my time at JB Camera Designs while they were making their new Fuji X Pro 2 grip, recently launched and available for pre-order at Amazon. I grouped the images into some of the steps. These grips are a labor of love. All the details of the how and what happens at each step are not really mine to share so I’ll just share pics. I can tell you that the grips I am using on my Leica M and my Fuji X Pro 2 are really beautiful, fit perfectly and in my opinion have improved the overall shooting experience. I especially like the new grip with my larger Fuji lenses and especially with the 90 f2. It has really helped me improve my grip to stabalize my shooting with this longer and heavier prime.

A couple of notes before moving to pictures…

My friend JB did give me this grip. I just want to be up front and honest here. He’s a close friend and this was a gift. I am thankful. I make no money from this nor any affiliated link. I just enjoyed the experience and wanted to support my good friend. I like the pics too!

So with that out of the way, let’s get to pics of the new Fuji X Pro 2 grip.

Wood selection and initial preparation

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Cutting, shaping, smoothing, sanding and prepping

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Branding, finishing and adding alloy barrel grip

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The finished product! I love it.

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I wish I had a studio to shoot images of the final product installed on my X Pro 2 but I don’t. But…Here is a shot taken with my little Fuji X70 for you to get an idea of what it looks like on the camera. I took this on the way home from Oklahoma. I had 12 hours of driving that day and needed a nice espresso! I snapped a few pics and then hit the road. Sorry for the poor picture quality on this one, but it’s all I’ve got.

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Thanks again JB. Great seeing you and meeting your crew!

You can purchase the X-Pro 2 JB Grip at Amazon HERE

See ALL of the JB Designs GRIPS HERE

(FROM STEVE: I loved my JB Designs grip so much I invited them to be a sponsor for this site over a year ago, and they now are. These are high quality grips priced right. Love all of my JB grips ;) HIGHLY recommended for those who like a grip for added..well..GRIP!)

Mar 082016
 

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ONA BAGS has just launched the new Clifton ALL Leather backpack for photographers. You can see it HERE and it is beautiful as most ONA bags are. I still own three Ona Bags and often use the small Bowery.  This time around ONA has released something for the fashion crowd, as in, those who like their bags to look good while wearing them. While many of us just prefer an all black canvas bag, some prefer the look, smell and patina that leather gives, so ONA released this for those of you who want a functional backpack for your gear and to look great while using it.

See images below of the new ONA Clifton, and you can see more about it or order it at ONA BAGS HERE. 

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Clifton

Mar 072016
 

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PRESS RELEASE: New Sony HX80 Compact Camera and Wireless Flash System Announced

Sony has announced the new HX80 Compact camera which I had a small preview of last week while in Miami shooting the new 24-70 f/2.8 and 85 1.4 G Master lenses. It is a compact, smaller than the RX100 series and comes in at an affordable $349. Below is the press release and stats for the HX80 and the new Wireless Flash System for the Sony system..which has finally been created ;)

Sony Announces New HX80 Compact Camera with 30x Zoom and Electronic Viewfinder

New Model is World’s Smallest Camera with 30x Optical Zoom Lens1

SAN DIEGO, Mar. 7, 2016 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced the newest addition to their compact zoom camera lineup, the DSC-HX80 model.

The new camera features a variety of advanced imaging capabilities including 30x optical zoom, a high-resolution 18.2 MP2 Exmor R CMOS Sensor and a retractable OLED Tru-Finder in a class-leading compact body. Along with the DSC-HX90V model, the HX80 camera becomes the only compact high-zoom camera with a retractable electronic viewfinder, making it an extremely appealing and flexible solution for travel and family photography and video shooting. .

The HX80 also features a high-resolution, 921k dot LCD screen that tilts a full 180 degrees for comfortable arms-length portraits or “selfies” and is Wi-Fi / NFC compatible.

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Key features for the new model are included below:

Compact Hi-Zoom HX80 Camera w/ Built-in Retractable EVF

Available in April for about $350

· Premium 30x ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* optical zoom lens with 60x “Clear Image” digital zoom capability

· Built-in pop-up OLED Tru-Finder EVF w/ high contrast and vivid colors

· 18.2 MP Exmor R CMOS sensor and BIONZ X processor ensure the finest capture details for still images and Full HD videos in all lighting conditions

· Optical SteadyShot with 5-axis image stabilization minimizes effects of camera shake

· 921k dot, 3.0 type LCD screen that tilts a full 180 degrees

· Full HD movie shooting capabilities including high-speed XAVC S format at 50 Mbps

· Built-in ‘pop up’ flash for low-light shooting support

· Compatible with Wi-Fi / NFC for seamless wireless transfer of content and with select Sony PlayMemories™ Camera apps

A variety of exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with Sony imaging products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, Sony’s growing community site built to educate, inspire and showcase all fans and customers of the Sony imaging brand.

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Sony Announces Development of New Wireless Lighting Control System at WPPI 2016

LAS VEGAS, Mar. 7, 2016 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today announced plans to release a new wireless lighting control system to meet the growing demands of professional Sony photographers.

Designed for compatibility with their α interchangeable cameras and external flash units, the new lighting system will include the FA-WRC1M wireless radio commander as well as the FA-WRR1 wireless radio receiver. A prototype of the new system will be on display in Sony’s booth at WPPI 2016.

With a maximum range of 30m (approx. 98 feet), the new radio controlled system will allow for an extremely flexible wireless flash shooting experience with exceptional performance in all types of shooting conditions. In total, the system can control a maximum of 15 separate flash units in up to 5 groups of flashes. While using the system, photographers have the ability to control the exposure of connected flash units either manually or automatically depending on preference. Additionally, the new lighting control system will be capable of flash sync speeds of up to 1/250th of a second with high speed sync (HSS) available as well.

The new Wireless Lighting Control system will be available this summer at authorized retailers throughout the US and Canadian markets. Pricing and detailed specifications will be released at a later date.

Mar 032016
 

The Leica 40mm Minilux Summarit f/2.4 and Techart AF Adapter

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Ever since my hands started using the new TECHART Leica AF adapter I have been shooting it almost non stop. I have been in Miami testing the new Sony G Master lenses for the past few days and have snuck in a few here and there with the little TECHART and Summarit 40 f/2.4. Yep, the lens is actually from the Minilux film point and shoot, converted into an M lens housing and mount.

Many have been emailing me non stop asking if the AF Adapter for Sony really works, or works well. Well, it works pretty damn good and while it is not perfect, it is a first version product that does very well right out of the gate. MUCH better than I thought it would to be honest. MUCH better. I even let a few fellow photographer friends try it out this week and there were “oohs and as” from them all.

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I have no relationship with Techart at all, but they did send me the adapter to give my honest opinion on, and I have to say, I am really enjoying it as it will Auto Focus an M lens faster than I can usually accurately manually focus one (again, on a Sony A7 series body).

Now, so far I have ONLY been using the 40 2.4 and a 50 Jupiter 3+ with it but so far, so good. Also, a this time I have only a Sony A7RII, and have not yet tested it on the new A6300 (which I did get chance to use this week, and it is also a stunning release from Sony) or the A7s or A7II. I plan on testing it on all of these cameras VERY SOON (when I get home this weekend).

So for now, I just want to be brief on the words, and share some images with the 40 2.4 Summarit on the A7RII using the AF adapter. I will give some thoughts above each image…

FIRST, YOU MUST MUST MUST click on the images to see them at their best. If you do not, they may appear soft. 

I was on a bus at night. When the bus stopped I looked out of the window and saw this man, alone, just looking side to side. I started up my A7RII which had the TECHART adapter and 40mm on it, and set it wide open, aimed, and took the shot. The lens focused quite quickly, using the contrast detection on the sensor. The Sony A7RII showed exactly where it focused and it nailed it.

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Low light, higher ISO..focused on the guy in the middle. Bam, no problem. Again, click it to see it larger and sharper. The adapter had no issue locking on, though due to low light it took about a second to lock on.

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Shot out of a bus window at f/2.4. I liked the art on the wall here..

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UP close with the 40 and AF adapter…locked on super quick here because the more light you have, the faster the AF. The adapter allows your Leica M lenses to focus a bit closer as well…

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This lens has a unique Leica like look to it, as it should. It’s a Leica! But it has more of a classic look to it, some vignetting as well, but I dig it for sure..

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The color from this Minilux lens is very pleasing. All of these are unedited OOC images BTW

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One more in the darkness…this one took maybe 1 1/2 seconds to lock on using the AF adapter but it locked on and focused the Leica M lens.

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Many are wondering if the TECHART adapter is worth the $349 asking price. I would say, it depends on you, your eyes and your manual focus skill. I am noticing as I get older, my eyes are not quite as sharp as they used to be. Manually focusing M lenses on a Sony is a process for 100% accuracy. EVF Magnify, turn the lens, focus and snap. That can take 5-20 seconds to do. With the AF adapter, my main worry is that it either just would not focus or it would be so slow, that manually focusing it would be better.

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After a few days with the Techart, it may become the only way I use M lenses on a Sony body. It works, and in many cases it is faster than manually focusing and it always seems to lock on, even if it takes 1-3 seconds to do so. In good light, it is fast enough but not a blazing AF monster. Think 2-3 year old digital camera AF speed ;) In the dark, it may frustrate as it needs to grab on to something with contrast to hit focus. Me, I always use center point focus for ANY camera I shoot, even when using Native glass on the A7 series. I want to focus on what I want to, not what the camera wants to but with this adapter we can use the center point mode or wide mode or any focus mode. If you want to manually focus the lens, you can do so just by focusing the lens and firing.

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While not perfect, this adapter is showing just what is possible with Mirrorless cameras today. This can NEVER be done on any DSLR, and the Sony A7RII is, as I and many have written about, absolutely stunning in all ways. With the Sony A7 series I can use M lenses, Canon lenses, Nikon lenses, Sony lenses, Zeiss lenses, Contax lenses and all kinds of lenses many may not even know exist. We can shoot video up to 4K, we have a live view and EVF that are wonderful to look through and use. In fact, the main weakness of the A7 series is the battery life, but those I know who shoot with the Sony usually have 3-4 batteries in their bag. I shot all week in Miami with an A7RII, ALL WEEK, and I am on battery #2 right now, the day I am heading back home. Even so I always tell Sony that they need a better battery, dual SD slots and an even more rugged build for true pro use.

My crystal ball says this is to come from them, one day…

As for battery life, as long as you do not machine gun fire your camera or chimp after every shot, the battery will last a while. I did not chimp once all week, I wanted to be surprised when I saw the images on my laptop and save battery life at the same time.

But next to the smart phone, mirrorless is the future for cameras for pros, enthusiasts and hobbyists and that is a fact. Seeing what companies like Sony, Olympus, Fuji and others are doing (all besides Canon and Nikon pretty much, who are remaining stagnant with DSLR’s only and weak mirrorless offerings) is inspiring as every year it gets better and better.

The TECHART adapter is something I feel could also get better and better, as I see a version 2 or 3 a couple of years down the line and I see it getting much faster. As is, it is worth the $349 if you have M lenses and a Sony A7 body and want Autofocus for these lenses. It really works my friends, and it is quite exciting for M lens owners who also own a Sony.

You can read more about the TECHART Adapter HERE. 

Feb 292016
 

IN HAND VIDEO: Techart Leica M Auto Focus adapter for Sony E Mount (A7 Series)

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Good morning and happy Monday to all! Yesterday I posted a video to my YouTube channel showing off the TECHART Leica M AF Adapter for Sony E mount and yes, it works and works pretty well. See the video below where I tested the adapter with the 40 2.4 Summarit which was converted from a Minilux to an M housing and mount. I also tested the adapter with a 50 Jupiter 3+ and 50 Summilux and it nails the focus every time. In the video below I show off the adapter and take some shots to show you how fast it will AF outdoors. Review soon, with many more thoughts on using it in different scenarios. So far, so good! You can pre-order the adapter HERE if you so desire, $349.

First Look at the Techart Adapter

Full Review SOON!

Feb 222016
 

A look at the 4V Design Lusso Slim Camera Strap

A few days ago I received a package from 4V design with a couple of straps inside the box. I had no idea what to expect but can state that I get shipped TONS of straps as it seems everyone in the photo world want their straps reviewed. I end up reviewing probably 25% of them as most are just copies of other straps. Sometimes a strap comes along that is beautiful in looks, comfortable when worn and made of high quality leather with important things like ADJUSTABILITY.

The straps from 4V that were in the box were their LUSSO SLIM strap as well as a Wrist Strap. BOTH have super soft high quality leather, unique color and can be adjusted very easily. If you go  to the 4V website (here) you will see that they are made in Italy, and that they seem to take their strap design and quality very seriously.

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When I unboxed the straps I did a quick video look on them which you can watch below if you so desire:

The strap is very comfy, since it has a memory foam padding with a very grippy surface where it hits your shoulder, so even heavy cameras will be soft and cozy on your shoulder and back. The leather quality is among the best I have seen in a strap, up there with exotic $300 straps. The details are fantastic and the black and cyan color combo is stunning. It just pops.

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Over the years I have used/tested and checked out hundreds of straps. I have a drawer full of them and change them out from time to time. With the Lusso slim, I may have found the strap that will stay on my beloved Sony A7RII for quite some time as its comfort is up there with the best and I love everything about it. Not much one can say in a strap review, but if you want to read more about these straps or the other straps in the 4V line, check out their website HERE.  Highly recommended.

If you want to order one, you can do so at B&H Photo HERE. They have all colors in stock!

 

Jan 212016
 
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VIDEO BAG REVIEW: The Tenba Cooper Series 8 and 13 Slim

It’s that time again…more bags! It seems there is NEVER a shortage of camera bags to house your camera gear. Choices are everywhere and I have seen and tried so many over the years. Some of my faves have been Billingham, Wotancraft, Artisan and Artist, Think Tank, Hold Fast Gear, Fogg, and now TENBA as they have created a VERY attractive bag here in the Cooper series, and the cool part is that these are VERY well made and super functional as well as lightweight and attractive. Will the Cooper be for you? Maybe, take a look at the video below to see more!

More on the Tenba Cooper series can be seen HERE. 

 

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See more on the Cooper at Tenba HERE
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Jan 082016
 

A Look at the Wotancraft Hand Dyed Leather Apple Watch Band (Video)

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I enjoy my Apple watch and while I feel it is not the best value in watches it is a cool device that stays on my arm every day. I can check my calories burned, I can see how much activity I have done for the day, I can use it as my phone and speak to anyone on my wrist. I can check my schedules, important dates, notifications, my facebook and twitter and all kinds of cool things. When I bought my Apple Watch I was not thrilled with most of the bands that Apple made available for it, nor was I overly impressed with most 3rd party bands. Then I saw THESE at Wotancraft and I knew instantly I had to get one..

Wotancraft did not have an option on their site to order a band for an Apple Watch but I was informed by  them that any band they sell can be made for an Apple Watch. So if you want o order a watch band from Wotancraft, just tell them the sizes you need for a standard watch or if you want one for an Apple Watch just contact them ahead of the order. They can and will do it ;)

Below is a video I just posted showing my band from Wotancraft.com as well as me fitting my Leica SL and three M Lenses into a Wotancraft Raven bag, which is TINY! Enjoy!

Jan 072016
 

NEW Zeiss Mobile Phone High Quality Lenses

Looks like Zeiss is entering the mobile phone market! Well, LENSES made for phones that is. Zeiss is promising new high quality lenses that will be above any other phone lens made. IT’S A ZEISS and they look pretty cool in the photo below. Zeiss says these will be available 2nd quarter of 2016, so soon. I look forward to testing these out, and I will as soon as I can get a set to test.

You can see and learn  much more on this system HERE.

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